By Nisid Hajari
Updated March 22, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

Alicia Silverstone has made a career out of enlivening pop-culture clichés — the bad Catholic schoolgirl of her Aerosmith videos, the vindictive Lolita of The Crush, the dippy glamour-puss of Clueless. But whereas those archetypes came to life under her deliciously campy touch, her latest entrée — the hackneyed, geeky-yet-sexy tomboy — hovers between seriousness and self-parody in the barely released True Crime, which Silverstone made right before Clueless.

The fault lies less with the pouty Silverstone than with writer-director Pat Verducci’s schizophrenic script, which forces her to play a good Catholic schoolgirl — complete with a dorky squint and knickers (funny) — who’s obsessed with tracking down a serial killer (not funny). Teaming up with a slightly unhinged yet sexy young police cadet (Kevin Dillon), this ersatz Nancy Drew employs all the techniques of detection appropriate to, say, the Case of the Missing Lunch Money — stealing files, trailing suspects on her bike, hacking into the DMV computer, and entering abandoned recycling plants by herself.

None of this matters, since all the lightbulb-over-the-head monologues, overheated romance, and occasional flashes of wry humor (”Do you think I’m, like, the butt-ugliest?” wonders Silverstone) are vaporized by a 20-minute climax in which the identity of the culprit switches several times. Silverstone herself pinpoints the problem with her last question to the killer: ”Why?”

”No reason,” he answers. ”This is the real world.” True Crime? No, just Hollywood.